Why You Have to Learn How to Learn
I’ve been accused by people close to me of diving into new things too quickly. When I see something that I am enthusiastic about and want to learn more, I jump into it like there’s nothing else worth my time. I LOVE to learn. I am a lot like a little kid who sees something for the first time – I am completely mesmerized by all things new. John Maxwell once said what he wants on his tombstone, and I completely agree with him, “Here lies a man who learned something new every day of his life.”
I realize that most people don’t share this enthusiasm for doing something new. In fact, some people are completely scared away by the thought of it. It’s hard to learn “new tricks” for anyone, not just the old dog. It’s always uncomfortable to put yourself into new situations that you haven’t experienced before. You don’t want to feel like a fish out of water. Most people would be perfectly happy to live every day of their lives from the comfort of knowing.
I had a recent conversation with a close friend of mine who was trying something new with her health. She is the type that shies away from things that are uncomfortable. She was getting so frustrated at not having the answers that it brought her to tears. “I feel so stupid,” she said through the tears trickling down her face. Feeling “stupid” will either be your motivator or it will deter you. Which will it be?
Not Knowing Is A Motivation
Those that advance are motivated by not having the answers. Those that truly leaders in life are not the types to sit on the sidelines because their seat is comfortable. One of the greatest perspectives that I have ever heard came in one of my opening conversations with a coaching client. He and I were discussing a start-up idea that he had and we were talking about how his business was going to stretch him to do new things that he hadn’t yet in his career. He said, “I don’t know everything about how to do this, but what I do know is how to learn.” Knowing how to learn is probably more important than learning any other topic.
Here’s what a curious (sometimes obsessed) guy like me knows about how to learn:
- Dive in. Find all the material that you can about the new subject and read as much as you can. Want to eat healthier? Read all that you can about proteins, amino acids, and carbs. Want to start a blog? Study the most successful bloggers out there and find out what they do. Many of them will even tell you how they do it! The key is to dive into the info and purposely feel overwhelmed. This is how you start to truly absorb new things.
- Be comfortable with not knowing all the answers. View it as a game to unlock the puzzle pieces. You can put it all together piece by piece, but you won’t ever start with the full picture. Be ok with gathering the beautiful picture one small piece at a time.
- Just do it! The best way to learn something is to just get started. Too many people will research something to death, but wait until “the perfect time” to get going. There is no perfect time. You just have to go.
- Learn from your mistakes (and you will make mistakes). Your one year old doesn’t one day find himself running up and down the hallway. He had to take an awkward step by himself and then fall. Then he got up again, only to fall again. This repeated itself over and over again. Sometimes he fell so hard that it hurt. He learned something new each time and made adjustments until he finally got it. It’s no different for you.
Learning is essential for anyone that wants to advance in their lives. Learning how to learn is probably the most important skill that you will ever teach yourself. Spend almost as much time learning how to learn as you do learning new skills and you will grow by leaps and bounds. If you like living in mediocrity, stay comfortable.